My question Ordered sequence of ascending integer combinations was put on hold despite receiving five good answers in the first 12 hours. It has also received a fair few upvotes, as have the answers. If people can answer it, how is it unclear? As of writing this, there are no comments on my question at all.

Dear Peter Taylor, caird coinheringaahing, pajonk, Mego, Cody Gray, would one of you please explain how the question is unclear? As it stands your on hold reason is unclear.

  • \$\begingroup\$ meta-unclear? :P \$\endgroup\$
    – hyper-neutrino Mod
    Jul 15, 2017 at 20:16
  • 8
    \$\begingroup\$ "If people can answer it, how is it unclear?" That is not how it works. I can answer anything, that doesn't prove that your question was clear. More importantly, it doesn't prove that everyone will understand it in the same way, which is critical when posting challenges. On a "meta" level, I take issue with your attitude and calling people out on Meta by name because you disagree with them. If you want to solicit people's opinions about your question, that's fine. If one of us wants to chime in, that's fine, too. But this doesn't need to be a referendum on the users. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 16, 2017 at 8:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ @CodyGray I think this meta is worth considering: worldbuilding.meta.stackexchange.com/q/3773/3624 \$\endgroup\$
    – CJ Dennis
    Jul 16, 2017 at 8:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ That's nice that someone on another site thinks that, but it isn't the rule here, and it is strongly discouraged on Stack Overflow where many of the members here originate and with whose customs it is more reasonable to assume they are acquainted. I've never once been to WorldBuilding. I very strongly disagree with that assertion, by the way. All I would do is echo the close-vote reason that I chose, which is not especially useful. Furthermore, it would just lead me into an argument with users (like you) who disagreed with my close vote, because you could then easily ping me back. No thanks. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 16, 2017 at 11:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ @CodyGray a close vote with no explanation, but don't like to be accountable of your action by name? \$\endgroup\$
    – edc65
    Jul 23, 2017 at 6:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ @edc65 There is an explanation given, it's right there underneath the question in the yellow box. And no, I don't think it's appropriate to call out 5 users by name. There was clearly a consensus here, so the proper thing to do would be to ask for clarification about which aspects of the question are unclear and how they can be improved, rather than implying that all 5 of us are idiots who have gone rogue. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 23, 2017 at 6:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ @CodyGray 5 out of 5 is a consensus, 5 out of an unknown number greater than 5 is not. That's like saying "Amongst those who voted to close, there was a consensus". \$\endgroup\$
    – CJ Dennis
    Jul 23, 2017 at 9:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes, @CJ, that's how it works. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 23, 2017 at 9:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ @CodyGray Sorry, I didn't realise that this site is a pentarchy. \$\endgroup\$
    – CJ Dennis
    Jul 24, 2017 at 0:37

2 Answers 2


The main reason that I voted to close wasn't because it wasn't unclear, but rather because it was very confusing. I just spent the last 5 minutes reading over the challenge and think that I have understood it, but I'm still not entirely sure.

But let's take a look at the two main parts that caused me to close it.

The contradiction

If the current line is -, the next line is 1+2+ ... n-

n=4: - => 1+2+3+4-

If the last integer is equal to n, remove all integers from the end that are immediately followed by a -, then change the last + to a -

n=4: 1-2+3-4- => 1-2-

It seems to me as though 1+2+3+4- is directly followed by 1-2+3-4- which doesn't make sense to me. The steps that you have detailed, and the example you give, show that it happens much later than the first line. It would have definitely been clearer if you had used the first line as an example as it would have logically followed on. Instead I was trying to understand how you got to 1-2+3-4- from 1+2+3+4-.

n = 4: 1+2+3+4- => 1+2+3-

The mind twister

If the last integer is less than n, append the remaining integers with a + after each one, except the final integer which should have a - appended

The first few times I read this, I had no idea what it was saying. It was only after I read through it quite a few times, and used an example on a piece of paper that I understood what you were trying to say. This could definitely be phrased in a better and clearer way.

Your examples

I noticed that in this post and your comment on Peter Taylor's answer that you cite your examples as making your post clear. While I agree that they do contribute to its overall clarity, that's not what examples are supposed to do. From things to avoid when writing challenges

Test cases are examples for people to check their understanding of the spec and the correctness of their code. They should not replace an explanation of how the output must relate to the input.

As a final point (and as a cliché point), I would like to remind you of the Sandbox where you can post challenges to get feedback.

(As a side note, can I ask why the lines have to end with -? It doesn't seem very mathematical and messes with my perfectionism.)

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you for giving constructive feedback! The only previous time I mentioned the examples was as an afterthought in my comment. I'll edit the question but please give me feedback if you think it still needs improving! I noticed you said "the two main parts"... As for the - symbols, they're just symbols and don't represent "minus" or "negative". They could just as easily been @ or $. The numbers are also not numbers, they are convenient ways of labelling each value, which must be distinct. They could have been letters, except that it's not obvious what happens after "Z"... \$\endgroup\$
    – CJ Dennis
    Jul 15, 2017 at 12:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ @CJDennis in that case, I wouldn't refer to them as "integers" \$\endgroup\$ Jul 15, 2017 at 12:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ What would you call them? "Digits" is inaccurate and "numbers" has the same problem as "integers", while being less specific. The program must take an integer as input since it represents the number of levels/maximum length, however you'd prefer to think of it. \$\endgroup\$
    – CJ Dennis
    Jul 15, 2017 at 12:47

Maybe you should ask one of the people who answered it to rewrite the question. I can't really answer "how is it unclear?" because I can't extract enough sense from the question to say "I understand all of it apart from ...". It looks like the output of a Markov chain generator.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I have 13 lines plus example output. You can't understand any of the 13 lines? Are there any lines you think are clear? Are there any lines that particularly stand out as being incomprehensible? \$\endgroup\$
    – CJ Dennis
    Jul 15, 2017 at 7:33

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